After 30 years as “Help for Abused Women and their Children,” HAWC chose to change its name to “Healing Abuse Working for Change.” The new name aligned with our commitment to serve all individuals affected by domestic abuse. There has been dramatic growth with HAWC’s services over the last 30 years, expanding language capacity, cultural diversity, and our services to the LGBTQ community. Our new name truly supports our two-fold mission: to support the healing process of abuse and to change social norms and behaviors that perpetuate violence and oppression.
Today, 35 years later, HAWC has a staff of 22 and a volunteer base of approximately 50. We serve 23 cities and towns from Saugus to Cape Ann. We have five locations where individuals can seek comprehensive services. We have strong community collaborations with the local courthouses, police, and hospitals. And, of course, we have an incredibly supportive community that works with us side by side to support individuals experiencing domestic violence.
In the 1970s, women began to speak openly about violence. Stories were shared on front porches, at kitchen tables and on telephones. There were few people whom they could safely tell, and even fewer resources. With a mission to eliminate domestic abuse in Northeastern Massachusetts, the original members quickly got to work, setting up a crisis hotline, referral network, and temporary shelter system. Within the first seven months of operation, HAWC received 1,582 calls and sheltered 74 women and 126 children.
Despite the evident need, HAWC met great resistance from the community. Many argued that the services were exclusive of men, threatened the sanctity of marriage, and that the victims were responsible for the abuse. Despite these protests, HAWC continued services and expanded. With the passing of Domestic Abuse Prevention Act (Chapter 209A, passed in 1978) HAWC began a Legal Advocacy program and began collaborating with local criminal justice agencies. Over the next 30 years HAWC would continue to grow through collaborations in the community and through grant-funded programs. We continue to strive to improve and bring knowledge about HAWC to communities in need of our services.